May 22 (Reuters) – The transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine would raise the question of NATO’s role in the conflict, a senior Russian diplomat said on Monday, while accusing the U.S. of subordinating the Group of Seven to its policy of inflicting “strategic defeat” on Russia.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday endorsed training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy assured Biden that the aircraft would not be used to go into Russian territory.
“There is no infrastructure for the operation of the F-16 in Ukraine and the needed number of pilots and maintenance personnel is not there either,” Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said in remarks published on the embassy’s Telegram messaging channel.
“What will happen if the American fighters take off from NATO airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’?”
Antonov said that any Ukrainian strike on the Crimea region would be considered a strike on Russia.
“It is important that the United States be fully aware of the Russian response,” Antonov said.
Ukraine has intensified its strikes on Russian-held targets especially on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Antonov also reiterated a Russian accusation against the United States of subjecting Western countries to its agenda.
“Washington completely subordinated the G7 members to its own policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine,” Antonov said, adding that the United States wanted a “strategic defeat” for Russia.
During their summit on the weekend in Japan, the G7 countries signalled long-term support for Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who also attended the gathering, said he was confident that Ukraine would receive supplies of the F-16.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February last year, has increasingly portrayed what it calls its “special military operation” as a campaign against the West.
Ukraine and its Western allies call Russia’s action an unprovoked war to grab land.